By Frank, I of course mean the iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It all started in the early 1950s, when Robert Berger of San Anselmo, California, asked Wright to design him a house that was “expandable, inexpensive, and easy for one person to build.” Surprisingly, … Wright did.
Dear Mr. Wright,
I am a boy of twelve years. My name is Jim Berger. You designed a house for my father whose name is Bob Berger. I have a paper route which I make a little bit of money for the bank, and for expenses.
I would appreciate it if you would design me a dog house, which would be easy to build, but would go with our house. My dog’s name is Edward, but we call him Eddie. He is four years old or in dog life 28 years. He is a Labrador retriever. He is two and a half feet high and three feet long. The reasons I would like this dog house is for the winters mainly. My dad said if you design the dog house he will help me build it. But if you design the dog house I will pay you for the plan and materials out of the money I get from my route.
A busy man like Wright, who was supervising the construction of the Guggenheim Museum at the time, may have declined the project or declined to reply at all. But just over a week later, he responded…and his answer wasn’t “no.”
A house for Eddie is an opportunity. Someday I shall design one but just now I am too busy to concentrate on it. You write me next November to Phoenix, Arizona and I may have something then.
Frank Lloyd Wright
June 28th, 1956
The young Berger did write back, just as Wright suggested.
Dear Mr Wright
I wrote you June 19, 1956 about designing my dog Eddie a dog house to go with the house you designed for my dad. You told me to write you again in November so I ask you again, could you design me a dog house.
Wright drew the original design on the back of the envelope the letter arrived in and turned it over to his staff. They produced a full set of drawings for the project – a small, triangular dog house with a low-pitched roof.
The original plans were more complicated than the young Berger had hoped, and the Bergers didn’t get around to building it until 1963. When the dog house was built, Eddie and his successors declined to use it, and by 1973 the house was dismantled and tossed in the dump.
Recognizing how special the project was, Berger, who is now fully grown and a skilled cabinet maker living in Marin County, California, decided to recreate “Eddie’s House,” and in 2011, he received permission from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to build a replica of the dog house from the original Wright sketches.
Berger eventually donated the replica to Marin County Civic Center Library in May 2016, where it is housed inside the largest Wright building ever constructed, the Marin County Civic Center.